Roster Rundown: LB Damien Wilson's Primary Rookie Role Was Special Teams

(Editor's Note: Throughout the off-season, DallasCowboys.com staff writers will take a closer look at the roster, analyzing players' impact last season and how each fits into the team's 2016 plans. Today's Roster Rundown entry features linebacker Damien Wilson.)

Name: Damien Wilson
Position:Linebacker
Height/Weight: 6-1 / 242
Experience:1 season
College:Minnesota

Key stat: As a rookie, Wilson tied Jeff Heath and Kyle Wilber for the Cowboys' most special teams tackles (9).

Contract Status:Signed through 2018.

2015 Impact: When selected in the 2015 NFL Draft I thought the Cowboys had selected a better version of Anthony Hitchens who was outstanding in his own right during his rookie season. The defensive coaches took the same approach with Wilson that they did with Hitchens. In the OTAs and minicamps they tested him at all of the linebacker positions in order to gauge where his best fit might be. Not only was it a physical challenge for Wilson but a mental one as well. Wilson didn't back down or appear to crack under the stress, but his mastery of the task wasn't as smooth as it was for Hitchens. Wilson was able to find a role on all of the special teams on a weekly basis and an occasional snap or two as a backup linebacker in games where there were injuries. In those opportunities he flashed the traits of short-area quickness, change of direction and range. Where he lacked was where he fit responsibility wise.

Where He Fits:Believe you will see a more comfortable player in his second season. There was a lot thrown at him with the expectations that he could be what Anthony Hitchens was. Will be interested to see if he gets more of an opportunity to lineup as a MIKE or WILL? My feeling is that we will see him as a backup MIKE and continuing to be a core special teamer. Too much athletic ability not to find a spot for him in the defensive rotation, especially if Rolando McClain is not re-signed.

Writers' Analysis:

Rob Phillips:The Cowboys initially worked Wilson everywhere at linebacker to find his best fit, and partly as a contingency. They discovered Hitchens' versatility in 2014 in part because injuries forced him to play multiple spots. The Cowboys were generally healthier at linebacker in 2015 and had added a veteran reserve, Andrew Gachkar, through free agency. Hitchens only got 32 defensive snaps the whole season, including 30 against the Saints in Week 4 after Sean Lee left the game with a concussion. For now he has found an early role on special teams, and it's worth noting that the other two leading special teams tacklers are free agents: Heath (restricted) and Wilber (unrestricted).

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